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Succession: The Roys Are Pure Evil Despite Their Emotional Trickery In The Final Season

Contains spoilers for "Succession" Season 4 Episode 9 — "Church and State"

It can be easy to forget that everyone on "Succession" is an awful, terrible, and just downright evil person. In fact, the ease with which we can forget that Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and their now late father Logan (Brian Cox) are monsters at their core is a testament to just how talented creator showrunner Jesse Armstrong and his writers are. The characters on "Succession" are some of the most lived-in, fully-formed characters not just on TV right now, but perhaps in the history of the medium — Armstrong and his incredible cast have created such individual tics and stories and oddities for every single main character, and yet they still feel unpredictable at times — but they're also just horrible. Fans might have forgotten that. During the last season, they definitely remembered.

The age of the anti-hero on the small screen has been going on for a while. Tony Soprano, Walter White, Don Draper, and Cersei Lannister all walked so that the Roy family could run. The trick Armstrong somehow pulled off throughout the series, though, is that sometimes, we could forget just how bad the Roys were; they weren't exploding buildings, becoming drug kingpins, or killing people while taking their daughters on college visits. The Roys are intensely cruel and selfish, though — and Season 4 reminded us of that in the most brutal way possible.

The Roys reminded us who they really are during the on-screen election

The eighth episode of the final season, ironically titled "America Decides," laid bare just how craven and horrible the Roys are when they're jockeying for power. The hat trick here is that we've been watching Roman, Kendall, and Shiv grieve Logan, who died unexpectedly while on a private plane en route to Sweden for a business deal. On top of that, Shiv is pregnant with her estranged husband Tom Wambsgans' (Matthew Macfadyen) baby, and her two brothers have taken over the reigns as co-CEOs of the family business Waystar Royco.

Before Logan died, he was set to sell the company to GoJo billionaire Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skårsgard)... and now that he's gone, Kendall and Roman want to hang onto any vestige left of their dad, so they decide they want to tank the deal. Shiv, meanwhile, is working with Matsson secretly to ensure she'll be a higher-up at GoJo in the deal's aftermath. This all comes to a head on election night, where a series of awful things happen: Kendall uncovers Shiv's betrayal and sides with Roman when the two agree to call the election on their network, ATN, for far-right fascist Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). See, if Mencken wins, he'll block the GoJo deal, and Roman and Kendall will control the new president.

"We made a night of good TV," Roman says as they crown Mencken. "Nothing happens." This sentence unmasks all the Roys for who they are: people who know they're untouchable, and are willing to screw over anyone who isn't in the blink of an eye.

Logan's funeral almost made the Roys sympathetic - but still showed how awful they are

It almost feels like the Roy children could possibly earn the audience's affection back just a little bit in the following episode, "Church and State." After losing Logan in Episode 3, they have to face their grief head-on at the patriarch's massive funeral, where Roman is set to give a eulogy for his father. Predictably, Roman — who says at the funeral that he's "pre-grieved" and has barely dealt with his feelings at all since his father died — has a full meltdown when he tries to deliver said eulogy, losing it completely when he realizes the coffin in front of him contains his father. Kendall ultimately steps up to the podium in lieu of his brother and the siblings come together once again as Kendall delivers a touching yet honest speech about how Logan was an impossible figure, but he also left an incredible legacy in his wake.

And yet, the siblings use their father's funeral as an opportunity to advance their own interests. At every available opportunity, Shiv corners Matsson, telling him that, if they can name an American CEO of GoJo to work alongside him, Mencken might allow the sale. Kendall and Roman corral Mencken, trying to ensure that he's still in their pocket. Even with a dead body in the room, these people can't help themselves, trying to make underhanded deals and screw each other over — because all of them are rotten at their core.

The Roy children have been horrible for the entire show...

Let's start with Roman, a chaos goblin with no apparent moral compass. In the show's pilot, he tears up a million-dollar check he promised to a kid who hits a home run at Roman's request. He sends unwanted explicit photos to Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), an older employee of Waystar Royco, and then fires her not once, but twice in Season 4. Roman is odious, and Culkin is so uniformly excellent that sometimes, you have to remind yourself who he really is.

Kendall, the show's resident sad boy, is a self-centered lunatic who has all but abandoned his family — including his biracial daughter Sophie, who is now terrified to live under President Jeryd Mencken. (Kendall's assistant Jess, played by Juliana Canfield, quits after the election for the same reason... and he simply berates her.) Let's not forget, though, that Kendall killed someone at the end of Season 1 when he crashed a car under the influence at Shiv's wedding, letting a waiter who was in the car with him drown. Logan fixes it for him, and Kendall never faces any consequences.

And then there's Shiv, the baby of the family, who actively talked multiple women involved with Waystar Royco out of going public with accusations of sexual impropriety. She also cheated on her husband and asked him for an open marriage on their wedding night, and her idea of foreplay with him was telling him, "You're not good enough for me." A sweetheart, truly.

... and it all comes back to Logan Roy himself

The Roy children are awful, yes — and it all comes back to their father Logan. A genuinely uncaring man, Logan set the precedent with his children when it comes to how they should behave, and they're worse off for it.

There's evidence that Logan was abused as a child, and in "Church and State," we learn more from his brother Ewan (James Cromwell) that he had a truly traumatic childhood. Instead of making sure his own children didn't suffer as he did, though, Logan apparently doubled down. Multiple characters confirm that Logan repeatedly hit Roman as a child, and he hits him on-screen as an adult in Season 2, prompting Kendall to leap to his brother's defense. Logan is especially derisive when it comes to Kendall, clearly viewing him as a failure rather than a worthy successor — and when the father and son are at war in Season 3, Logan asks Kendall's son (his own grandson!) to taste the patriarch's food to make sure it isn't poisoned. To be clear: in the off chance that his food was poisoned, he was willing to sacrifice a child.

Generational trauma is very specifically explored in "Succession," and it certainly explains the Roy children. It also doesn't absolve them. They're horrible, morally bankrupt, cruel, and selfish people. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist; the greatest trick "Succession" ever played was making you sympathize with the Roys.